Clarity for change success

A couple of years ago I went with my husband on a Caribbean Cruise. Because I was born in Cuba, I especially enjoy the turquoise waters of the western Caribbean.

One of the ports we stopped at was Belize City. This port has shallow waters close to land, therefore, the cruise ship anchors way out at sea. Small motor boats come to take the passengers ashore.

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On our way back to the ship an interesting incident happened. We were almost alongside our ship. As the boat slowed down, several passengers got up to take pictures. The captain of the boat started idling the engine instead of finishing his approach to the ship. After awhile it became clear to me that for security reasons, he was waiting for people to sit down, and he would not make the final approach until nobody was standing.

What was curious to me was that neither the captain, or his crew said the obvious: “please sit down so that we can finish the approach to the ship.” It seemed as if they assumed everybody should know this was the safe thing to do. Yet, evidently not everybody knew.

Finally, after quite a few minutes were wasted, someone said "everybody needed to sit down for the boat to be able to approach the ship!" As soon as the instructions were clear, people took their seats and everything went smoothly.

The incident reminded me that many times change efforts in organizations take longer because there are no clear precise instructions. What seems obvious to the leadership is not always obvious to the rest of the company. Time and money are often wasted “idling.” People walk around doing unnecessary activities that do not contribute to the transfer between the old and the new.

When leading a change effort, it is not only important that a plan is developed with wide participation. It is vital that expectations are communicated clearly and instructions are understood. 

Questions for Reflection

As a leader, are you hoping people will do “the right thing” or are you clearly communicating your expectations?  Have you ever been a part of a change situation where communication could have been clearer? What could you have done different to communicate more effectively?   Share your comments with us.

Remember. . .

Clear communication can make a big difference! You can ask for my FREE Communication Guidelines to have at your fingertips basic ideas on how to have clear communication.